It all started with Bimbo Brown. Yep, Bimbo yet again. My childhood stories are loaded with Bimbo’s antics and I could tell heaps more than I have, but he was just that sort of third cousin.
I guess I was about 6. One day I came home from school and complained bitterly to my mother.
‘It’s Bimbo. He keeps pinching my bottom with his toes.’
It should be said, here and now, that practically no child wore shoes to rural schools in Queensland. In the tropics in the 1950s, any policy of children wearing shoes was generally regarded as madness, though some of the big girls did, and some idiot parents new to our school and our ways tried to start a shoe-wearing trend by sending their kids to school in shoes and socks.
That madness we fixed, firstly by telling the kids to take their idiotic shoes off and enjoy the feel of dust and cow dung between their toes, which they did. Before long they hated shoes as much as we did and their parents gave up the fight. School uniform, which consisted of any bodily covering your mother made for you out of whatever fabric she had, and no shoes, was restored, as was the world on its axis.
But, there was a down side. Bare feet did result in the Bimbo bottom-pinching dilemma to which, sadly, I was an unwilling party.
Party? It wasn’t a party. I was a victim.
Mum looked perplexed when I told her of the wanton attacks on my rear end.
‘Well, you know how he sits right behind me in class. All the time, he puts his foot up, and he pinches me on the backside really hard with his toes. Like I said.’
She looked cranky.
She unceremoniously pulled my pants down and studied my bum. It was undignified, but the effect was gratifying.
For some reason not apparent even to me, I feel bound to make this point here and now. As kids, we were raised not to use swearwords. Mum rarely did, but Dad had a wide and lush vocabulary when things went wrong in the dairy, so it’s not like we weren’t familiar with them.
In his case it was definitely do as I say, not do as I bloody well do. We got into serious trouble from either parent if we uttered any swear-word below ‘bum,’ very high up on the list, and Dad would sometimes deliver his lecture on the subject, accidentally slipping in a swear-word or two out of habit. I do distinctly remember that he looked a bit sheepish when he committed that sin while warning us not to.
It was a swear-word paradox with which we were very familiar. None of us would have dared comment on it while the rousing progressed, for fear of more direct reinforcement of the lesson on his part. Come to think of it, I was the only one who copped these lectures, not my goody-two-shoes sisters. Except maybe Kay, but he had mellowed a bit by the time she came along.
Taking the Lord’s name in vain was completely off the agenda for us kids, even though it sometimes peppered Dad’s language when the cups fell off a cow’s teats into the dust on the dairy floor and sucked it up into the milk pipes. If that’s never happened to you in your dairy with your cow’s teats then you won’t begin to imagine what a bacterial horror and how much cleaning that can lead to.
But, this swearing thing has had a lifetime effect on me, even though my religious views go beyond the dogma of a particular faith, and though on occasions I might feel very satisfied with a range of well-worn expletives, blasphemy is something that always makes me feel bad, rather than assuaging whatever pain it was directed at. ‘Give me the child for the first five years.... etc.’
It’s true. It makes me wince even now, especially when teenagers shout blasphemies across to each other in the Armidale mall.
Back to the story. My mother was outraged on inspection of my bum. Errr.. backside.
‘Good Lord. There are black bruises all over your bottom. I’m telling Mr Curtis about this.’
Mr Curtis, as those of you will know who’ve read my earlier tales, was the head teacher, who taught all kids at Calliope from Grades Three to Eight.
‘No, don’t,’ I pleaded. ‘Everyone will laugh at me or call me a dobber.’
Being a dobber, or someone who told (snitched) on other kids, was no laughing matter, especially when you were related to half of them. They had ways of getting back at dobbers that San Quentin inmates would have been quite interested in.
I was so earnest about this that she reconsidered.
‘All right then.’ She went to her pin-cushion.
‘Take this and put it in your pencil case. Now, if he puts his foot up again and tries to pinch you, stick this pin right in his toe.’
It sounded good to me. I couldn’t wait to try it. It was so wickedly, deliciously perfect I couldn’t quite believe my angelic mother could have dreamt it up, let alone sanctioned it as a bruise prevention strategy or aversion therapy. My mater’s imprimatur, no less. My bum felt better already at the prospect of my hand being given carte blanche to jab a pin as hard as I could into Bimbo’s toe. True rear-guard action at long last.
I refined the plan before going to sleep. I knew by turning my head slightly and keeping my eyes down when an attack was expected, I could see his right foot being raised. Always the right. Without giving anything away by other bodily movement, I would sneakily stretch behind me and jab the offending toe with the pin.
It worked like a dream. The first time the foot went up, I was ready. I even wanted it to happen. He didn’t suspect a thing, but my mini-epée found the mark with deadly but delectable accuracy. The toes responsible for the outrage were withdrawn like lightning, Bimbo making a faint yipping noise like a terrier surprised by a cat bigger than itself. He didn’t really know why he felt this sudden sharp pain in his big toe, but he knew damn well it wasn’t enjoyable.
Oh, I enjoyed it. It was almost delerium. Ecstasy. Laugh if you like, but if it hasn’t happened to your bottom, you won’t understand. OH.... come to think of it, maybe quite a few women will.
Later, he tried again. I let him pinch once, just like letting a fish have a nibble at the bait. Sucker. Come to poppa.... Again my movement was almost imperceptible, and I felt him jump like, well, a stuck pig. But it’s not something that can be hidden for long when the stuckee is now watching the pinchee suspiciously. There has to be cause and effect. Bimbo was smart. His mathematical skills went well beyond putting two and two together, but that would be enough in this case.
One final time the foot went up. Again I let the fish have a go at the bait, and then jabbed as hard as I could. The only thing that saved him a bit was that he was now aware something might happen, but I got a satisfying jab in anyway.
Thereafter the foot would sneak upwards, purely out of habit, but never made it to its destination. Wisely, he quietly lowered it to the floor again prior to contact, like the enthusiasm of a lover when the headache routine has been invoked. The attacks on my posterior ceased. He couldn’t really protest in any way, as he knew I’d have no choice but to tell Old Jim why I did it, and Bimbo was more likely to get the cane out of that than I was.
It was an excellent result. My mother agreed. So, I found out only much later, did Mr Curtis, when my mother told him about it. They and Dad were all highly amused. I just couldn’t imagine, at the time, severe Old Jim having that much of a sense of humour. How wrong we can be when we’re six!
That should have been the end of the matter, but it wasn’t. Enter ‘Spider’ Koplick to the bum-pinching scene.
(final episode now available...)
Lovely story, so pleasing being transported back to how-things-used-to-be. Any sort of lime green plastic gives me a big jolt of childhood memory, as do coloured pencils (the smell!). Did Bimbo go through life being called Bimbo? Did YOU have a nick name? And -those swearers who shout in the mall seem to me more fond of sexual references than of godly ones :)It's pretty ugly, whatever it is (and yes I do swear myself quite strongly when frustrated!!!) But that F word just wasn't around in my world at all.ReplyDelete
What about the smell of plasticene? Our little sweaty paws in the tropics made it look like we were fashioning things out of dog-poo.ReplyDelete
I can't say for sure about Bimbo being called that all his life, but I am almost certain that anyone knowing him at school would still call him that, as we never called him anything but - though we did shorten it to 'Bim' quite often. These days it would sound totally off!
Yes, I had a nickname that all the Wrights had - Rifty - I haven't got round to writing about that yet! When I was little with a bunch of curly fair hair they would also call me 'Snowball'. Don't laugh.... :)
I don't think there's a way in the world that I could shout any of those words out in public. But when I lose several hundred words of what I've written because of some computer (operator) problem, I can mumble the most amazingly startling invectives of an unattractive type.
Yes....but because it is so rare that you do swear, it sounds HILARIOUS!ReplyDelete
Honey!!!! You are completely destroying my reputation as a hard man. Or am I a chav? See http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Hard+ManReplyDelete
The Urban Dictionary's put-down of the final wrong definition is funny. Whatever you do, DON'T start looking at other definitions on the Urban Dictionary site, or an hour will be gone before you know it.